(Glen Gray/Associated Press)

Tom Poti will be back in Washington tonight, skating with the Capitals as they hold an open practice at Verizon Center and moving another step closer to what was once considered an improbable return to NHL hockey.

The veteran defenseman arrived at training camp last week after missing the past two years with lingering groin problems and a fractured pelvis. He hasn’t played an NHL game since Jan. 12, 2011.

Poti, 35, passed his preseason physical and on Sunday the Capitals loaned him to the AHL’s Hershey Bears for a conditioning assignment. In two games with the Bears this week, Poti recorded a goal, five shots and a minus-1 rating.

Coach Adam Oates was vague when asked Thursday morning if he expected any lineup additions or alterations prior to Friday’s 3 p.m. deadline to set the opening night roster. We now know why, because it seems unlikely the Capitals would bring Poti back at this stage if they didn’t intend to include him on the 23-man roster.